Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Book review: "How to Pack: Travel Smart for Any Trip" by Hitha Palepu

If you have hung around the blog for any amount of time, you probably have figured out that I love to travel! Though I am always worried that I have never packed enough of the right thing, or too much of the wrong thing. So I'm always on the lookout for books that might help me with that paranoia of mine!


First of all this is a book with a totally fitting and adorable cover.

Secondly, I like that she gives packing tips for different types of personalities. Like, do you just throw in everything willy nilly and not know what you don't have until you have to find a Walgreens in Edinburgh to get some toothpaste. She suggests the packing list.

Thirdly, this sounds like a silly piece of advice maybe, but I think it's brilliant. "Pack for who you really are". If you have thought about getting back into running after a decade absence, you are not going to start on vacation. Do not pack your running shoes.

Lastly, more simple sounding advice, only pack the things you feel good in. If you don't like how you feel in it when you are at home you aren't going to like it when you are on vacation!

Not so good:

Firstly, I was laughing when she was talking about packing your suitcase to go home and how it should be just as methodical as when you pack to go on vacation. Uh, when I'm coming home from vacation my only goal is to make sure my valuables don't break and that the damn thing zips. End of list.

Lastly, the book is a smallish book and for the packing lists in the back to be useful you'd have to have beautiful tiny penmanship that never messes up or you'd have to copy it and blow it up by about 40%.

Overall a good book, it's always worth a refresher on how to be a good packer. Except now the travel itch has intensified...it never goes all the way away.....

I was given this book by Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair review

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Book review: "Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History" by Bill Schutt

I think sometimes I scare my coworkers. When they stop me when they see me going to find a quiet place for lunch to read, they ask me "so what's your book about?" Usually my answer doesn't elicit to many reactions, but when I said I was reading a book about cannibalism it was "Why?! And while you're eating?!"

By now, you guys know my love for very specific, weird, nonfiction. And that's how I ended up reading a book about cannibalism while munching on my lunch.

Each chapter highlights a different type of kind of cannibalism, or question about cannibalism. Here are just a few sneaky peeekies:

- There is a chapter on the Donner Party, naturally. Did you know that the married men out survived the bachelors in the group? The author has reasoning for this that I think is totally wrong, but I'm just some ahole so he's probably right and I'm wrong.

- Do you know how long it takes some snails to mate? 6 seconds! You know why? Post-coitus cannibalism!

- If someone invites you to a Thyestian feast you SHOULD NOT GO

- There's a type of cannibalism that is motivated by filial piety. Looking at you certain Asian countries....

- Want to learn some slang from the 1920s and 30s? If you were an "older homosexual tramp who traveled with a young boy you could be called a cannibal". 

In full disclosure, there was a chapter in the book about whether or not the act of Holy Communion practiced in Christian churches is considered cannibalism. Reader, I skipped that chapter. I did not want to become angry.

This boo was full of interesting tidbits (HAHAHA) and I learned a lot. The only time when I was queasy about this book while eating was the chapter about human mothers who eat their placenta......just...don't....no.

3.8 out of 5 stars!



Friday, March 10, 2017

Book review: "Dark Matter" by Blake Crouch

This was a book club pick for my work friend book club and though I had heard vague good things about it I had no idea what it was about. Looking back this is probably by design because there is very little that I can say about this book without giving away major plot points, so this review is not much help but here it goes.

So Jason is a really smart scientist, but he's not really living up to his full potential because he knocked up his girlfriend who was an aspiring artist and now they are both very happy with their now teenage son but both of them are acutely aware that they aren't really living up to their whole poteintal. Then, one night after a crappy encounter with a friend whose life took the super successful science trajectory that Jason's could have, he finds himself naked in a warehouse at gunpoint by a guy in a creepy mask. And it all unfolds from there.....I'm going to be honest. It was a bit of a slow start, but it did pick up. It I felt like it just had a long build to get to the action.

If I had put together that the same dude who wrote this book also wrote the Wayward Pines trilogy I probably would have been able to guess where this was going to go. But I didn't. And I was surprised. Which is fine.

Slightly spoilery- When Jason and Amanda are in that corrido and that random torn up horrified dude just walks past them and screams, that is the most freaked out I've been by a paragraph of a book in a long time. So, good on you book. You made me go "Eeeeeeeeek!"

So if you like twists and turns and big thoughts about destiny and life and all that stuff, this is the thriller for you.


Monday, March 6, 2017

Book review: "Mexico:Stories" by Josh Barkan

I read this book over a month ago and hadn't gotten around to reviewing it, which maaaaybe says something about the book. (And maybe a little about me...I'm going to say 75% book, 25% me)

It's a short story collection, and each of the stories are centered around people who are not involved in the incredibly scary drug cartels but somehow get pulled into that world.

-There's a Romeo and Juliet story between two kids from different drug cartels families which is by far the least creative or original story in the bunch.

-There's a strange story that involves a mime and a circus and a little person...

The story that I thought was most interesting was about a man who was a kind of mid line plastic surgeon in Mexico. Suddenly a famous narco bursts into his office and demands a makeover. Not just a nip and a tuck but a "I'm going on the lam and I need to be unrecognizable" kind of makeover. The doctor protests ("yeah, usually there's a consultation or two and usually I don't do surgery at gun point soooo can we talk?") Things go south and the doctor fears for his life...

I keep trying to think of things to say about this book and I just keep shrugging my shoulders and thinking "I dunno, it's fine." If you've got a hankering for a REALLY GOOD book about people being dragged into the cartel's sphere I'd much more highly recommend "Prayers for the Stolen". That's a good book. And the cover is great. This cover is ok. It's fine. Everything about this book is just fine. It's like....if Train were a book. Not special, just fine.

I received this book for free in exchange for a fair review from Blogging for Books

Thursday, February 23, 2017

A Poem for Edward Gorey on his Belated Birthday

A Poem for one of my personal favorites, Edward Gorey.
on the day after his birthday

 If you don't know the story
Of my friend Edward Gorey
And his creepy illustrations
That could drive you to libations
I would encourage you to give him a gander

For in his books
are people with hollow looks
Children who die strange deaths
And creatures from murky depths
Of one strange and beautiful imagination

But the story that I think is best
Is the tale of the Doubtful Guest
A cute little creature 
With a striped scarf as a feature
Who suddenly appeared
And quickly endeared
Himself to a strange, hollow family

Tearing up his shoes
Playing in Flues
Tearing books out of pages
And other outrages
Were some of his favorite to-dos

So, today if you need a distraction
To avoid social interaction
 Explore my friend Gorey
And take in his stories
On this his most special day.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Book review: "Atlas of Cursed Places: A Travel Guide to Dangerous and Frightful Destinations" by Olivier Le Carrer

You know how people talk about having "wanderlust"? These places will fix that.
Or how people have bucket lists for places they want to travel? This is the opposite of that.

In this lovely formatted, pleasure to hold in your hands type of book, Mr Le Carrer takes us to places all around the world that we would only want to visit from the comfort of our living rooms.  Some places we can't visit anymore like:

- The ancient city of Carthage where pits have been discovered that contain "twenty thousand funerary urns, mostly of young children". Children offered as human sacrifices.

-The Sundra Strait, which is still there, but it looks different then it did in 1883 when a massive volcanic eruption killed tens of thousands of people and created "the tsunami that lapped the planet three times over".

There are places that you absolutely can still visit like (but you shouldn't):

- The Bermuda Triangle, which I feel like I don't even need to describe because you know the stories

- The city of Nuremburg where Hitler had grand plans for his 1000 year Reich. (Though in a moment of "oh hell yes! Take that you bastard Nazis" the building that used to house the SS barracks now houses the High Commission of Refugees.)

-Or the place in far, far, far northern Russia where there's a whole bunch of nuclear submarines, still with their payloads bobbing and rusting and decaying in the cold waters. Do you trust that none of them are leaking? I don't. I think Russia's got some 3 eyeballed fish, a la the Simpsons up there.

Not only was this a beautiful looking book, the writing was elegant and kind of lovely considering the ocassionally gruesome subject matter. The short chapters made it easy, fast reading and a good book that you could pick up and set down on busy days. This was right up my weirdo alley and I wish there were 15 more books just like this. 4 out of 5 stars.


Monday, February 13, 2017

Book review: "Splendid Slippers: A Thousand Year of Erotic Tradition" by Beverley Jackson

You're probably thinking, uh Wesley? Erotic tradition of shoes? I don't understand. Are we talking about plastic high heeled platforms? Erotic shoes? Wha?

You know what, I wish we were talking about stripper shoes, but you know what we are talking about instead? Mutilation of children as young as 3, and the people that did this to them? Their friends and relatives. We'll be talking about the tradition of foot binding in China.

So it's going to be more talking about bones breaking than....let's say...Quentin Tarantino sexual foot fetish but we will cover both.

Image result for that escalated quickly

I know Ron. I know.

So let's talk about how this book got on my TBR. It was mentioned in one of the first episodes I ever listened to of one of my favorite podcasts, Stuff You Missed in History Class. The episode was graphic and interesting and eye opening. I just assumed that foot binding was something the aristocracy did to be like "hey, look at my wife. She doesn't have to work because I'm so rich so she's got these tiny ass feet and boy aren't I rich". But I figured there was more to it than that and I listened to the episode and I was right. This book was mentioned several times and I finally got it from the library. I'm going to be honest with you. If you're like, wow that sounds like an interesting book but I don't want to actually read it, listen to the podcast. (But you'd be missing out on all of the pictures of the crazily embroidered shows which would be a mistake!).

I'm going to broadstroke the process of footbinding because it's gruesome and gross and sad. It usually started for girls between the ages of 3 and 5 because the bones in their feet hadn't really developed and it was cartillagey yet. There were a couple of ways that the foot could be broken to achieve different types of bound feet, but no matter what you usually ended up walking on the tops of your toes. The ideal length of a foot was no more that 3-ish inches.The bones would need to be rebroken several times and the bindings were wrapped very tightly to keep the feet in place. I either didn't read it or just tried to gloss over it but I don't remember what they actually used to break the bones and I don't want to know. The chances of this going really badly and leading to infection and who knows what other medical problems would be really high. Though, most women would risk infection and death than to have their foot amputated if something did actually go wrong.

A couple more facts:

- There'd be Christian orphanages and they would allow the practitioners of foot binding to come in to the orphanages and bind the young girls feet, otherwise NO marriage prospects

-As you can imagine, having to hobble along on tiny 3 inch feet lead to almost universal back and spine problems for these women.

-If you were being trained as a young boy to be an actor and it seemed that you were going to be doing ladies parts (like how in Shakespeare's time men would often play the women's roles) they would get their feet bound to be more authentic.

The shoes that these women would wear were intricately embroidered and considered prized possessions. Many men also considered them HIGHLY erotic just to see them, and often women would pin their shoes to their clothing so no man could just push them down and snatch off their shoes and make off with them.

When a woman (I should say young girl, because let's be honest, that's what it was) would get married she would have a very special pair of red shoes. On her wedding night she would leave them by the bed, and put pornographic pictures in them for her husband to find, and then after viewing them together they would consummate their marriage. (Though it's worth noting here that only VERY rarely would a man see his wife's unbound feet. Probably something to do with the terrible smell that could be a problem and because of how gruesome it looked. Women would wear very soft, nonrestrictive shoes to bed). 

I'm just going to copy this sentence from the book "There is said to have been a special training manual for prostitutes which detailed in great variety how to use their feet during sex".(Basically what you're thinking is what happened).  Also, there seemed to be a lot of drinking games with the prostitutes involving their shoes. Like, basically beer pong with teeny shoes. So much drinking alcohol out of tiny shoes, but they were basically the size of a shot class so...

So, just to put a pin in the feet fetish section, bound feet played a HUGE part in getting a good husband, having sex with said husband, and keeping harmony in the marriage. Which is funny because I don't think my husband could pick any of my shoes out of a line up.

This is already a hella long review so I will just say that if you are interested in cultural differences, women's history, pictures of tiny shoes, and have questions about bound foot porn (because that's a thing, please don't google that at work) this book has all that and more. This book kept me intrigued, but it mainly made me feel sad for these generations of poor hobbled women who could barely walk without assistance.